Vivek Ravisankar has raised tens of millions of dollars for a tech startup with an admirable goal: his venture, HackerRank, is making resumes obsolete while unlocking an enormous amount of tech talent, busting the notion of a technical skills gap and helping companies speed up innovation.
Appearing as a recent special guest on the DealMakers Podcast, Ravisankar shared with our audience how he made the leap from Amazon software engineer to one of the most successful young founders in the world, the challenges of growing a startup, the value of persistence and how hiring for skills instead of pedigree can help companies of all sizes speed up their contributions to society and designing our future.
The Life-Changing Power of Y Combinator
Ravisankar is originally from Southeastern India, which he told me doesn’t feel that different from the Bay Area today.
While studying computer science at university, he wound up meeting one of the best hackers in school, Harishankaran Karunanidhi.
They quickly became close, working on many of the same side projects and getting to know each other well. In fact, it was one of those college projects that spawned the original idea for what would eventually become HackerRank.
Hari and Vivek believed in the magic of California’s Silicon Valley, viewing it as the birthplace of all great companies. They did what many aspiring founders do – apply to Y Combinator.
It seemed like everything was working out until Y Combinator rejected their application. Undeterred, Hari and Vivek applied again – and were once again denied. It wasn’t until their third attempt that they got some measure of success – they were invited to a 10-minute interview in Northern California, almost 10,000 miles away.
Vivek’s co-founder, Hari, couldn’t get a visa, so Vivek had to fly across the world alone. Hari’s problems didn’t end there – in fact, he couldn’t get a visa until four years and several funding rounds after the company was started.
Despite those challenges, Vivek prevailed – a short time later, he became the first Indian founder to graduate from Y Combinator.
Today, Vivek describes it as a life-changing experience, but it wasn’t always so rosy. When he arrived in Silicon Valley, the company had $10,000 in the bank and was quickly running out of time.
Y Combinator changed everything – once they were accepted, they incorporated in the US and had a US bank account with half a million dollars in it in just three days.
Vivek points to the intense focus of the program as one of the main benefits of the famed startup incubator – the environment is incredibly competitive, and Vivek was surrounded by brilliant entrepreneurs.
The program leads up to the now-famous Demo Day – a make or break moment where founders pitch their companies to an auditorium full of investors.
Vivek experienced astounding success, attracting investors and receiving valuable mentorship from the likes of Paul Graham, Sam Altman, and other founding fathers of entrepreneurship.
HackerRank: Changing The Dynamics Of Recruiting & Getting Hired
In essence, HackerRank is technical recruiting platform – recruiters and hiring managers can administer skill assessments tailored directly to the role they are hiring for, talk to and coach candidates as they interview, and view granular metrics to help improve their own process..
The high-level vision of the company is to match every developer with the right role while placing an emphasis on skill over pedigree.
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